Reports of dog shooting, traffic accident during Balikatan probed
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — U.S. military officials are looking into two incidents involving U.S. troops participating in the Balikatan exercise in the southern Philippines.
The incidents involve a Navy SEAL who reportedly shot stray animals, and a “fender bender” involving a jeepney and a van full of Marines, said Army Lt. Col. Mark Zimmer, a public affairs officer with the Joint Special Operations Task Force.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Zimmer said only limited details of both incidents can be released due to ongoing investigations.
The first incident involves reports that a Navy lieutenant attached to U.S. Navy SEAL Team 1 was shooting stray animals that had wandered into his compound on the island of Sulu.
“We don’t want to be premature in commenting too much on what is an ongoing investigation,” Zimmer said. “But it appears that an unhealthy wild dog had to be destroyed by U.S. armed forces. Rabies is endemic down here.
“The U.S. does not condone the discharge of firearms in the killing of wild animals, unless the animal poses a direct threat to any personnel.”
He said several U.S. servicemembers were being questioned concerning the reports.
“If they violated procedures and in fact did not follow pretty strict rules and regulations pertaining to the use of firearms, then they will be subjected to the proper administrative or other action,” Zimmer said.
He said proper procedures apparently were followed in what he termed a “fender bender” Sunday morning near Zamboanga City.
According to local press reports, two people were injured when their jeepney was bumped by a van carrying Marines. No one was seriously hurt, but the women in the jeepney complained that the Marines only stopped briefly, gave them a card with a contact number and then drove away.
“But that was proper procedure,” Zimmer said. “The Marines were part of a convoy and, because of force protection requirements, they could not remain at the scene to assist.
“They determined that there were no serious injuries and then gave them the information which instructed them how to report the incident and how to file any claim.”
Zimmer stressed that the southern Philippines could be a dangerous place for American troops.
“They are instructed to take proper force protection measures and not be targets,” he said. “In cases like this, the Philippine National Police will take a report, investigate the incident and, if it’s meritorious, the U.S. government pays the claims.”